The Quality Assurance Agency’s review of the University of York has given broad praise of the commitment to student learning. One problem, though, is levels of academic misconduct, particularly amongst international students. It reasons that aside from obvious language and cultural difficulties, many are unaccustomed to the University’s assessments, resulting in accidental violations. I do admire the report’s curious brand of optimism here. I don’t mean to say that crossing the border instantly makes you a cheat and a scoundrel; Britain has a booming supply of its own. However, many foreign students I’ve spoken to have said that the combination of studying abroad and high tuition fees brings greater expectations of you and therefore more pressure to succeed.
There are genuine areas of confusion for all students, for instance where co-operation ends and collusion begins, or to what extent you need to reference an idea in your work. The University is partly a victim of its own meticulousness: one student told me that her essay had been flagged with potential plagiarism, despite having checked it herself with Turnitin. Given that I’ve never used it myself, much misconduct may arise from sheer negligence.
Shouldn’t the University focus more on assuring that every student knows what is expected of them before pointing the finger? It seems that more needs to be done concerning ambiguity surrounding academic misconduct
This begs the question of how the University can improve, since this issue was acknowledged three years ago. Their only tangible contribution, the mandatory academic integrity tutorial, has allegedly been “well received by students” – clearly an exaggeration. I recall most discussion of it being along the lines of ‘Have you done that damned integrity test yet?’ Many think it far too vague and obvious in places to actually help. Personally I’m extremely grateful for the lessons it taught me, like how not to copy in an exam or to falsify data. I don’t remember taking it too seriously though; friends and I completed it together to save time. Having retaken and passed the assessment without revising the material, I wonder just how rigorously they’re testing us. Perhaps the exam season has sharpened my memory abilities to superhuman levels, but seeing how my revision has been going I think that’s unlikely. Considering the unlimited amount of retests, they could have subjected us to a few more trying questions to reinforce what qualifies as misconduct.
Add this to the additional workload many international students face just by choosing to study abroad. It’s not an easy task, and comes with it’s own complications. Shouldn’t the University focus more on assuring that every student knows what is expected of them before pointing the finger? It seems that more needs to be done concerning ambiguity surrounding academic misconduct, especially when the degree is at stake.
Still, this does nothing to combat wilful misconduct, which shows no sign of stopping without more effective detection and deterrent. Having spent the last week painstakingly referencing my latest History essay, I confess I’ve spent more than a few minutes contemplating cheating to get a better grade. But, I always remember a quote of my father’s: “Try to become not a man of success, but rather a man of value.” Well, that was actually Einstein, but you get the idea.